Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Council Timeline: Monday, July 25, 2022

Having a reduced summer schedule, seemingly means a jam packed agenda for the once a month gathering and navigating that was the task ahead for those elected officials that were in attendance for the July get together. 

A meeting that passed over the two hour mark, much of that owing to some extensive discussion and speechifying on the theme of parking, with a side dish of variance themes making for the more extensive debating points.

With Mayor Brain away, the hosting duties for the night fell to Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven, who made it somewhat of a Monday night at the Improv event, with many one liners through the evening, the councillor joined in by a number of other members of the council working on their humorous asides on the night.

As for the work, there were many reports,  a large range of variance requests and some controversy generated in the Committee of the Whole during the public participation portion of the night.

The night seemed a bit of a slog for the members and if anyone thinking of running in the fall for office were watching, they may be reassessing their future political plans over summer, maybe even a few incumbents. 

Some background on the work of Council for the night can be review from the Regular Council Agenda.

Council also hosted a Closed Meeting, making for the fourteenth of the in camera sessions for 2022.

The details related to the reasons for the behind closed door gathering can be reviewed.

Monday also brought a Committee of the Whole session,  the Agenda the focus for that element of the night is available here.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archives can be found below, with the permanent record of the council minutes added as they are posted to the city website.

In attendance Monday, July 25, 2022

Mayor Lee Brain -- Absent 
Councillor Nick Adey -- Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham -- Present
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present (Participated Remotely)
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present 
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa -- Present

Video Archive for Monday, July 25, 2022 


Committee of the Whole Session

( 0:00 - 14:00  ) Committee of the Whole Session for Monday, July 25, 2022

Councillor Reid Sketlon-Morven served as Chair for the session 

Adoption of the Agenda

Petitions and Delegations 

Public Comment Period on any other notes of interest

Two members of the Public came forward to speak on the night.

Larry Golden made inquiries about the status of the mayoralty salary at the end of this current term for Council.  

City Manager Rob Buchan advised him  that the current salary structure would remain in place after the next election, unless the newly elected Mayor had an interest in reopening the topic.

A second participant on the evening was Marc Page, who provided council with an extensive review of his past volunteer work with youth in the city, as well as some of his past work with the City on youth engagement. 

Then turning the topic of discussion towards his hopes to return to civic employ towards those themes, but finding the city's vaccine policy was now an impediment to that employment possibility.

The conversation was then quickly terminated by City Manager Rob Buchan,  who reminded Council that when it came to Labour issues for the City, that topic should only be discussed in camera ( closed session) and not in a public setting.

Council members did suggest that may invite Mr. Page to a closed session in the future to hear his comments related to the vaccination issue. As well, he did leave behind some of his notes from his abandoned presentation for the City's administrator.

Reports, Questions and Inquiries from members of Council

None of the council members had comments to share.

Adjournment to Reconvene to Regular Council Session


Regular Council Session 

( 14:00 --15:00 Adoption of Agenda and Past minutes -- Councillor Skelton-Morven reviewed the agenda for the evening and Council will adopt the minutes of past meetings.

(15:00 -18:00) Presentation from City Manager Rob Buchan -- The City Manager provided council with an update on his recent attendance at a Planning conference and presented council with an award  that the City received at the event. The award was related to the City's work on the Official Community Plan and 2030 Vision program. Mr. Buchan noted of the two planning agencies that worked with the City on the 2030 project, as well as the local community participation towards both ventures, something that he noted the City Could take pride in.

Council members offered up their thanks and noted of the City Manager's involvement with the project as his first job for the city. They also thanked those who participated in the process along the way.

Reports and Resolutions

 18:00 -- 20:00 )  Report from Communications Manager -- Approval of contract to Receive  Active Transportation Funding  -- Council received a report from Communications Manager Veronika Stewart, related to  $9,000 in funding from the Federal Government. She outlined the scope of the funding and how it will work with money previously received from UBCM towards the community's Transportation Plan. Councillor Cunningham noted of an upcoming public meeting at the Crest on Wednesday towards the city's current engagement process.  (see page 10  of the Agenda package)

( 20:00 --  24:00 )  Report from Fire Chief  -- Fire Apparatus purchase -- Council received a report from Fire Chief Jeff Beckwith, related towards the acquisition of a new fire engine at a build price of 1.23 million dollars. He observed the original plan for purchase was part of the Five year plan but that since then the price of supply of the engine from the USA has increased as our dollar lost some value and other elements impacted on the price, as a result the cost of the purchase has now increased. 

Towards Questions Councillor Adey noted of plans one day for a new fire station. Observing that the need for the new engine was an immediate one and if with a new fire station the Fire Department would be able to have a wider range of choice on the equipment it purchases.

The Fire Chief expressed some enthusiasm for a new station one day, towards the purchase he outlined how the new equipment purchase would meet the immediate needs of the department and fit the current space they have to work with.  (see page 12 of the Agenda package)

( 24:00-24:30 )  Report from Planning - June Development Activity Report  -- Council received a report from the planning department related to department activity in June.  (see page 14  of the Agenda package)

( 24:30 --  37:30 )    Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property on Kay Smith Boulevard     -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. Councillor  Nicky Adey raised some questions over the scope of the variances requested asking how the City ends up reviewing what is a new building that requires all of these variances towards completion. Further asking if there is not a process of oversight of construction that would have prevented it coming to council with the required variance requests.

The City Manager fielded the question, noting that they don't capture things until the time for inspections are done and site certificates are issued,  observing that if the building is not in accordance with the plans and results in encroachments the builders are faced with removing the encroachments or  asking for a variance of Council. 

Councillor Niesh offered up some technical notes related to the challenges of the build in question. 

Councillor Cunningham offered up his own observations on the build and how it has changed the nature of the original plan. The Corporate Administrator offered up some clarity on the nature of the variances that are being requested and that the city is awaiting more information from staff.

Councillor Cunningham returned to the theme of having to deal with such variances this far along in the process, noting that at the end of the day the builder chose not to do certain things which now require variances.  He observed that he has no problem with passing the variances, but at the same time he wonders why council has to pass variances on a whole building.

He also recounted some previous applications for building homes they were turned down ahead of time because all of the variances requested.

The City Manager pointed out that the recommendation facing Council was to send the process to notifications and that Council does not have to say Yes to a variance request. Highlighting that they are not obliged to say yes and that mitigating measures could be required to address them.

Councillor Cunningham noted that he did not want to penalized anyone for any mistakes. 

Councillor Adey returned to the discussion and observed how it is not something that the city would ask the builder to reverse construction and that if there should be measures in place to put in some stop gaps to prevent this scenario from happening again.

To that the City Manager observed that staff would be reviewing the situation to see what inspections had been done and if things could have been caught a little bit earlier. 

Council moved the process ahead towards public notification. (see page 24  of the Agenda package)

(  37:30 --  40:30  )    Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property at 1444 2nd Avenue West    -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance.  As part of the report it was noted that some of the neighbours to the applicant had expressed some concerns about his requests . Councillor Adey took the lead on the conversation to the file, asking if the original plan had evolved into something different, he was advised that was correct .

Council moved the process ahead towards public notification. (see page 34  of the Agenda package)

( 40:30 --  43:00     )   Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property on Prince Rupert Boulevard     -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. Councillor Cunningham once again took the opportunity to speak to the issue of variances and noted that in the last few months, Council was being asked to approved variances for projects that are started or have been built.  Asking if things are getting out of control. 

City Manager Rob Buchan observed that they will be making enquiries to determine if any of the variance requests could have been dealt with earlier by staff or caught earlier, he noted that sometimes things are built without permits, or built with permits but not in accordance of the permits.

He outlined some of the process in place and then stated they would take an internal review to see if there is more checks that they could be doing towards their process.

Council approved the variance request.   (see page 51 of the Agenda package)

 43:00 --  43:30 )   Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property at 1425 2nd Avenue West   -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. Council approved the variance request. (see page 57   of the Agenda package)

(  43:30 -- 44:00  )    Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property at Tatlow Street   -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. Council approved the variance request. (see page 63 of the Agenda package)

(  44:00 -- 44:30 )    Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property at 9th Avenue East   -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. The Corporate Administrator noted that the city had received one letter of support for the application. Council approved the variance request (see page 69 of the Agenda package)

(  44:30 -- 45:00 )  Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property on Hays Cove Circle   -- Council will receive a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. Council approved the variance request  (see page 77 of the Agenda package)

( 45:00 -- 45:30 )   Report from Planning - Development Variance Permit for a property on 6th Avenue East  -- Council received a report from the planning department related to the request for the variance. Council approved the variance request (see page 83 of the Agenda package)

(  45:30 -- 1:30:00     )   Report from Planning - Proposed Interim Parking Management Strategy   -- Council received a presentation from the planning department related the elements of an Interim Parking Management Strategy that would serve the community until a larger Transportation Master Plan is put in place. 

The timeline for the recommendations would be that of one to three years at which time the wider Transportation Master Plan would expand on the parking themes. 

The Presentation from City Planner, Myfannwy Pope held fairly true to the report provided through the Agenda package in explaining the goals and focus for the city's approach to parking issues in the community. (see page 91  of the Agenda package

Once wrapped up, the Council members picked up on a range of themes for discussion.

To open what would be a forty minute overview by Council, Councillor Nick Adey noted that not everybody would be happy with some of the options and how a lot of work went into the eight recommendations, some of which he expects will provoke opinion.

The topic of removing the minimum parking requirements downtown started off the conversation and would become one of the dominant themes,  with Mr. Adey noting how some of the original business owners from the past in the city may have an opinion towards removing those requirements after having had to pay previous.

City Manager Rob Buchan provided a response to that question, observing that when it comes to equity or fairness, that any time the city makes a change to regulations and rules, that somebody could always ask that question, recounting some previous changes that council has endorsed in the recent past.

Noting that not everybody is going to be subject to the same rules if Council believes that it's in the public interest to change the rules. He also observed that there would be a public process involved before the removal of the minimum parking requirements is adopted and people can express their concerns to council.

He also outlined how the way to achieve sufficient Parking is by way of public investment, by reconfigurating roads, to acquiring additional lands for public lots which would be a significant change in approach. The City Manager observing where the City would take the view that it is up to them to provide the Parking in those areas through these mechanisms.

Another theme explored by Ms. Pope was to outline how the city could implement shared agreements for parking whether with the City and businesses, or between businesses on their own.

Councillor Cunningham observed as to how he had voted against the Official Community Plan one year ago specifically related to his opposition on the issue of the minimum parking requirements, adding that he knows of one project that was shelved because of the requirement. 

He also offered up some guidance on the theme of shared agreements observing how that works well in larger communities but that it would be problematic here, with people currently using larger lots for other activities outside of what the lots are there for.

Mr. Cunningham  also observed that if current parking restrictions are removed in the downtown core, it would become a free for all, noting how he appreciates the work put into the new recommendations but he sees some problems ahead.

The City Manager returned to the debate, noting how it is a challenging problem, recalling the discussion of the Zoning Bylaw and OCP period a year ago and the concerns raised at that time and how some of the concepts being presented were received with some interest at the time as a way to solve the Parking standard problem.  

He outlined how it's not just removing the parking standard, but also one that requires investment for alternative parking locations, through street reconfiguration and through acquiring property so the city can provide on street parking. 

Towards further clarity, Mr. Buchan noted of the process to follow for all the recommendations and how the entire Interim work feeds into the Master Transportation plan and an opportunity for more fine tuning, observing that the interim project gets a start on the parking issues.

Councillor Cunningham then picked up  a note from the report that highlighted that only 25 percent of those issued tickets have paid them, the 75 percent of those parking downtown just thumbing their noses at the city.

A question from the councillor as to the value of the parking fund to date over the last twenty years, provided a response that there was approximately 147,000 dollars in place, which the City Manager observed would be put to use towards some of the Parking solutions offered.

There was also some discussion related to proposed changes to Second Avenue and the creation of parking spaces, with Mr. Cunningham noting that there will likely be an uptick in accidents without a few changes to the proposed design work.

Council Niesh spoke to themes related to the creation of residential spaces in the Midtown region, he also offered up some suggestions for parking options for Third Avenue through the downtown area.

Councillor Randhawa asked questions related to the reconfiguration plans for Second and Third Avenues, with the City manager noting that it was an ongoing process.

To try to move the topic to a close, Councillor Skelton-Morven noted of the Interim focus of the plan, which he observed  will be reviewed at the delivery of the larger Master Transportation Plan.

Councillor Adey acknowledged the nature of change and how some may not welcome it, hailing the Interim Plan as a way to move the topic ahead  and how Council should remain open to it as they go along.
A theme which Councillor Cunningham concurred with, while raising a few more observations on the themes of residential development in the downtown area. 

From that the Council adopted the motion to accept the Interim plan and to approve the budgetary requirements towards its implementation.

( 1:30:00 --  1:32:00 )    Report from Chief Financial Officer -- May 2022 Financial variance report -- Council received a report from CFO Corinne Bomben, related to the Financial variances of May. She observed that inflation may bring an impact on some of the projections previous to the Budget. She noted that there were no significant variance to report on at this time.  (see page 116  of the Agenda package)

(  1:32:00 -- 1:44:00     )    Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Council received a report from Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller related the the Bylaw Notification system and an opportunity to introduce a dispute adjudication system.  

Ms. Miller outlined how the system would have the city work with the Ministry of Attorney General to appoint an adjudicator, a project which could deliver an increase in the payment of fines of over 40 percent.  It is anticipated that it would take six to eight weeks for inclusion to the program, which would be the fall of 2022.

Towards discussion on the initiative, Councillor Niesh asked how the city can tell if a vehicle is insured, Ms. Miller advised that the bylaw officers have the ability to look up such status. 

Mr. Niesh also asked about the potential use of a boot system to increase the collection of fees.

The Corporate Administrator advised that the city does have the Boots on hand that he has asked about and that it's within the control of council when it comes to how the bylaws are written, amended and enforced.

The Councillor noted how the bylaw tickets specify that the payment is a voluntary ticket and how they don't feel the need to pay it and there is no enforcement towards payment of them. He asked why they aren't being booted or towed which would provide results when it comes to payment of the tickets.

The Corporate Administrator noted that as the ticket are worded as voluntary, it would be hard to boot vehicles, the new approach would send the process to collections if no payment was received.

Councillor Cunningham spoke of out of town vehicles and how they may not be inclined to pay if they reside out of province.

The City Manager noted he wasn't sure of the process, but anecdotally he relayed that it was his understanding it is hard to collect out of province.

Towards the proposed new Notification system, he observe that a voluntary fine is not a fine it's an invitation to make a contribution, which people can understandably people can choose to ignore and that adoption of the new process would resolve that.

Councillor Cunningham then spoke toward the Bylaw ticketing efforts for property maintenance, asking when they could move from the neighbour driven complaint concept and put the responsibility on the bylaw officers to address the conditions they seen, recounting how visiting bylaw officers from Terrace can't believe the condition of some of the properties in town.

The City Manager addressed how there was a need to create a civic policy and what would be required towards bylaw enforcement and how one approach could be developing a policy as part of the Strategic plan for next year.  

He also pointed to the staffing situation with the Bylaw enforcement office and how next year's Council may wish to address the issue, which could mean an increase in staff to achieve their wishes.

A comment which provided an observation from Councillor Adey that next year's council won't know what hit them. To the proposed change of the system as outlined,  Councillor Adey offered his full support.   (see page 121  of the Agenda package)

( 1:44:00 -- 1:55:00Report from the Fire Chief regarding PRFD response to medical incidents -- With the Fire Chief having departed from the Forum, Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller provided for the report which outlined concerns over the short staffed nature of the BC Ambulance Service in Prince Rupert and how it is impacting on the Prince Rupert Fire Department.

With the City finding additional expenses to provide for a provincially funded system and could have an impact on the Fire Departments ability to respond to fire situations in the community.

Ms. Miller recounted how what was once an emergency fill in situation has morphed into an ongoing and weekly occurrence. She reviewed  some of the recent instances where the PRFD have provided for the backfilling for Ambulance transport and how that takes the firefighter out of service for the Fire Service and reduces the department's ability to mount a response for a fire call and can result in Overtime costs to the city.

She also noted of the costs to the City  related to City firefighters driving the provincial ambulance if involved in an accident.

Towards a response for the City, she outlined how the City's Fire Department will if council approves, only respond to what are called purple or critical events calls. And to seek out compensation for any times they drive the ambulance.

The report also noted of their work with MLA Jennifer Rice on the issue.

Towards discussion, Councillor Skelton Morven repeated many of Ms. Millers observations, his comments were followed by Councillor Niesh who spoke of the burden on the taxpayers when the locally paid Firefighters respond to calls that should be covered by the ambulance service, noting how the local Firefighters will still respond to those calls where lives are at stake, calling on the province to step up and provide the proper staffing required.

Ms. Miller offered up some clarification towards the theme of the discussion, noting the issue is one of community safety over the financial concerns. 

Councillor Adey noted that it was a little disturbing to learn that there were times when an ambulance is not availble and he strongly encouraged any efforts to remedy the shortages.

He did note that he was not criticizing the paramedics on the ground in the community and that they are facing their own burdens with the work that they have to do.

Councillor Cunningham echoed some of the previous comments, noting how the training that the City puts In place for their response and how leaving them short staffed would put the responders in harm, noting that EHS has to step up to resolve the issue, adding that it should not be downloaded to the community.

Councillor Skelton-Morven observed of some of the concerns he has heard from friends who are part of the paramedic service, how the city council could serve in an advocacy role.

Council then voted in favour of the request.

1:55:00 - 1:56:30 Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Re Request for a letter of Support for the Golf Course -- Council received a report from Ms. Rosa Miller, who outlined the fundraising plans of the Golf Course and how they are seeking matching funds from the Province to complement a recent successful grant award from the Prince Rupert Port Authority. 

The Golf Course is asking for a letter of support from the City towards their application for a $250,000 dollar  BC Gaming Grant. 

The work that is planned includes, a green renovation, bunker improvements, tee box improvements all the first phase of a larger project that will address three other green renovations and the restoration of the cart path. 

Council provided approval towards the letter of support.


1:56:30 -- 1:59:00  )   City of Prince Rupert Five Year Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw  -- Council received a report related to the amendment to the Financial Plan, that related to required repairs for the Airport Ferry Dock Ramp on Digby Island and the ongoing work required for waterline repairs on McBride Street. Ms Bomben outlined the nature of the consultation with the community and asked that the process now be considered complete.

Council  provided fourth and final reading to the amended bylaw.  (see page 123 of the Agenda package)

1:59:00 -- 2:05:30 )   Report from the Communications Manager -- Council received a report from Communication Manger Veronika Stewart related to the Public Notice Bylaw No. 3500, 2022 and Development Procedures Amendment Bylaw 3501, 2022

Ms. Stewart outlined the scope of the proposed changes, the main focus related to challenges that they have found with the current process, particularly that through the deadline requirements of the local newspaper. 

To overcome that challenge, the city will take advantage of new provincial allowances that will let the City use their website and social media options towards additional information relay. The City will continue to publish the one notice in the newspaper, while also adding the two week information requirement through their own communication options. 

She outlined how they would also use the new option towards notifications through the Development Procedures Amendment Bylaw as well as to change the forms to reflect the new branding.

Councillor Niesh asked for confirmation that there would be one advertisement placed in the local newspaper.

Council voted separately to move forward for both motions. .  (see page  138 of the Agenda package)

2:05:30 -- 2:06:30 Report from the Approving Officer    -- Council received a report from the Approving. Officer, Richard Pucci related to the Prince Rupert Boulevard Road Dedication Bylaw 3499, 2022. 

The Road dedication is towards providing access for parking for the Digby Tower complex.

Council had no questions and provided first and second reading. (see page 178  of the Agenda package)

Questions, Comments, Reports or Inquiries from Council

( 2:06:30 --2:12:00   )  Councillor Adey led off the final element of the night noting of the past plans for a Parks And Recreation review, advising of two groups he knows of waiting for it to move forward. 

The City's planning staff outlined how the process is moving forward.

The Councillor also took advantage of the presence of the Director of Operations to ask about the progress for the ongoing work on McBride. Richard Pucci provided a short overview of the project noting how the end is in sight, with the city about three weeks away from paving. 

He also outlined how the city's larger paving program will start after the long weekend.

Councillor Cunningham spoke to theme of transportation and outlined how there is still a desire of residents of Cedar Village to have a bus stop placed at their facility, he suggested the City should talk to BC Transit towards the topic. 

Councillor Niesh had a question related to the demolition of the Jehovah Witness hall, he was advised that it should be taking place later this week.

Councillor Skelton-Morven spoke to the apology from Pope Francis earlier in the day and outlined the availability of the Indian Residential School Crisis Line for those who may be having challenges at this time. 

The number of the crisis line is 1-866-925-4419, it is available 24 hours and is toll free.

With no other comments from the council membership the July 25th  Council Session came to an end.

You can access our Council Archive of the July 25th Session here,  where a number of items regarding the Council Session, including links to local media coverage can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council Session of the night.  Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

Official minutes of the Regular Council Session from July 25, 2022 (not available yet)

The Next Session for Prince Rupert City Council is set for Monday, August 22, 2022.

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